Without opening the bag, Gray went straight to the baggage claim desk to file a claim about his damaged boards. The agent, who Gray says was extremely nice, was shocked and asked Gray to open the bag to inspect the damage. As it happens, four boards were snapped in different places (some the nose, some the tail, and one in the middle). Then and there, Gray filed a claim – which he says the airline stipulates must be done within four hours of receiving a damaged bag – with no indication when he’d receive a response and/or if he’d be fairly compensated for the damages.
The viral video Gray posted on Instagram of the damage days ago has now been viewed more than 72,000 views and received 596 comments. Not to mention the over 1,200 comments on one of American Airlines recent Instagram posts calling for justice, many with the hashtag #americanairlinesbreakssurfboards.
On Monday, Gray joined surfer and KTLA5 News anchor, Mark Mester, launching the story beyond surf media outlets, but as of today American Airlines has yet to issue any official response about the incident – neither to Gray personally nor via social media.
When we spoke to Gray over the phone, he couldn’t have been more calm and collected about the incident – something he demands justice for but less for himself and more for the surf community at large.
“I’ve always lived under a motto that everything happens for a reason and as horrible as this is, there’s an opportunity for a positive outcome here, and answer, and a response,” he said. “And of course every surfer wants to be reimbursed for their damage, but hopefully this is a platform for the bigger picture of the entire corporate airlines industry and surfboard excess baggage policies to change. Because we’re all aware that it’s just not professional and it’s not fair.”
Gray’s experience with American Airlines, though, is just the latest in a string of flare ups in the surfers vs. airlines battle. Remember the Bob Hurley, Kelly Slater vs. Hawaiian Airlines debacle? Or John John putting JetBlue on blast? The worst thing about each and every one of these incidents is thousands of surfers weigh in with similar accounts, and yet airlines fail to make substantive changes to their official oversized baggage policies – specifically as they apply to surfboards.
Alex Gray’s account may be the first to go kind of mainstream via KTLA 5, but American still has yet to so much as respond let alone take responsibility. Don’t expect Gray to go down without a fight, though.
“It’s just a situation that needs to be addressed. And I’m more than happy and willing to give my time and energy for our surf community. Yeah, it happened to me, but it isn’t about me. It’s about all of us,” he says.
Your move, American Airlines.